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Follow-up to the Rio Summit
To set out the general principles and actions to be taken by the Commission to meet the priorities resulting from the Rio Summit held in June 1999 between Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 31 October 2000 on the follow-up to the first summit between Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union [COM(2000)670 - Not published in the Official Journal].
In this communication, the Commission sets out the global and regional actions it intends to take to ensure that it fulfils the commitments made at the Summit between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean on 28 and 29 June and to prepare for the second Summit in 2002. In anticipation of this Summit, it has defined three priority areas for action: the promotion of human rights, cooperation in the information technology sector and the reduction of social imbalances.
The main objective of the Rio Summit was to establish a strategic partnership between the EU and Latin America/the Caribbean based on three dimensions:
- greater political dialogue;
- sound economic and financial relations based on a comprehensive and balanced liberalisation of trade and capital flows;
- dynamic cooperation in the educational, social and cultural fields and in scientific and technological development.
The Summit concluded with a joint declaration and an action plan setting out priorities in each of these three dimensions. Eleven key priorities were subsequently selected in Tuusula in Finland by a bi-regional group of high officials with a view to achieving rapid results and ensuring greater visibility of the actions implemented.
The Commission notes that the strategy concerning Latin America continues to be that set out in its communication of March 1999 on a new EU-Latin American partnership on the eve of the 21st century. Relations with the Caribbean countries are based on the partnership and cooperation agreement signed in Cotonou on 23 June 2000. The new element introduced by the Rio Summit in this respect is the promotion of regional integration of the Caribbean, including the countries of Caricom (Caribbean Community and Common Market), Central America and the north of the sub-continent.
On an institutional level, since the Rio Summit, a bi-regional group at senior official level has been set up to monitor and work on implementing the priorities adopted. In addition, there are regular ministerial meetings between the EU and the countries and sub-regional groups of Latin America and between the EU and the Caribbean countries.
In the context of these meetings, the Commission has called for a pragmatic approach and for efforts to focus on a small number of sectors likely to yield tangible results. In this respect, the Commission highlights the progress made in the fight against drugs and scientific and technical research.
Basis for Commission action
In anticipation of the 2002 Summit, the Commission proposed stepping up its action in the following areas: the promotion and protection of human rights, the promotion of the information society, and the reduction of social imbalances, thus covering the three dimensions of the strategic partnership (political, economic, social).
In the longer term, the Commission will ensure that the priorities identified are incorporated into the bilateral and sub-regional dialogues established, ensuring consistency and synergy between political, economic and cooperation dialogue. In order to ensure the success of its action, the Commission has laid down the following principles:
- subsidiarity, leaving Member States and partner countries with responsibility for the measures they wish to undertake while ensuring coordination and complementarity of all the activities;
- maintaining a balance between the Latin American/Caribbean region as a whole and sub-regional strategies;
- realism in implementation of the Rio conclusions, by concentrating on key political objectives.
In the political field, the Commission proposes taking further action in the priority area of the promotion of human rights by stepping up its action regarding:
- promotion of respect for human rights, in particular civil and political rights, by involving independent institutions such as ombudsmen, local organisations, including NGOs, specialising in dialogue between civil society and governments, and regional and sub-regional organisations specialising in justice;
- support for democratic political systems, especially through support for the media and press freedom;
- promotion and protection of economic and social rights by assisting organisations responsible for defending the rights of employees in companies and the rights of vulnerable sections of the population.
To accompany these actions, the Commission proposes the creation of an EU-Latin America/Caribbean discussion forum for the promotion and protection of human rights composed of representatives of the countries of both regions.
In the economic field, the Commission proposes a specific measure on the promotion of the information society. It presents a programme called ALIS (Alliance for the Information Society) designed to promote the benefits of using information society technologies. This programme will endeavour to:
- adapt the regulatory environment and related policies to improve investment in, and service offering of, the communications infrastructure;
- foster the training and education of human resources in the area of use and management of information and communication technologies;
- provide support to demonstration projects in the areas of tele-education, health, urban transport, e-commerce and the development of SMEs;
- increase the interconnection capacity between Latin American, Caribbean and European education and research communities.
In the cooperation field, support for the most vulnerable sectors of society in Latin America and the Caribbean is a priority and aims to reduce social imbalances. The Commission has also made the fight against poverty the key priority of the EU's development cooperation policy. This social dimension has already been taken into account within the framework of financial and technical cooperation in these regions and is constantly reinforced by the Commission. One example of this is the support for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries programme.
Against this background, the Commission proposes setting up an EU-Latin America/Caribbean 'Social Initiative' in order to stimulate general discussions on this issue and share experiences and best practices for the reduction of social imbalances and assistance for the most vulnerable groups. The Initiative consists of a series of meetings bringing together representatives of different groups of social agents from both regions.
Actions at sub-regional level
The Commission proposes separate priorities for each of the sub-regions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Thus, for the Mercosur area the main priority is the conclusion of the association agreement currently being negotiated. For the Andean Community, the main priorities are strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, evaluating the state of trade with a view to a possible 'post-GSP' trade scheme, and the fight against drugs and the prevention of natural disasters.
With regard to Central America, the key priority for Mexico is the implementation of the global agreement with this country together with cooperation between the two parties in order to ensure stability of financial systems and the promotion of trade and investment. For other countries in the region, in addition to human rights and support for social policies, and support for integration into the world economy, special attention is paid to the environment and natural disaster prevention/management as well as the consolidation of regional integration.
For the Caribbean, the dialogue in the institutions provided for by the partnership between the ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific) and the EU must focus on the areas of human rights, democratisation and good governance. Cariforum's annual meeting with the Commission is also maintained with the possibility of extending its scope to more fields, such as the fight against drugs, security and conflict prevention. In the economic sector, the first priority is regional economic integration, the eventual goal being the conclusion of a partnership agreement which could include a free trade area.
Management and follow-up to the Rio Summit
Overall management and the coordination of the follow-up to the Rio Summit are primarily the responsibility of the bi-regional group of senior officials. Ad hoc sectoral mechanisms involving senior officials and specialised working parties can also be set up at ministerial level. The choice of lightweight and flexible structures is warranted by the informal nature of the process and the existence of forums for dialogue at bilateral and sub-regional level.